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Black History Month Bio: Sidney Poitier

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Sidney Poitier holds the honor for being the first black actor to take home the Oscar for best actor. It’s a no-brainer that Sir Sidney Poitier paved the way for many of the black actors you see on screen today in America, including Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, and Terrence Howard. During a time when people of color were being persecuted for their skin color, Poitier, like many other black pioneers from past and present, broke new ground for those of today.

Poitier was born in Miami, Florida on February 20, 1927. Sidney was born prematurely to his Bahamian parents while on vacation in Miami. When he grew stronger, his parents flew him back home. Poitier lived on a tomato farm, however, when the farm failed to flourish, the family moved to Nassau. Noticing that he was always getting into trouble, his father shipped him off to live with a brother in New York. He joined the military early in his life but would soon move back to New York City to pursue a career in acting.

 

He joined the American Negro Theater to fuel his passion for acting. In exchange for acting lessons, since he didn’t have the cash to pay, he would complete janitorial work. He eventually proved his worth and would later star in Broadway shows like Lysistrata.  Poitier would work as a stage actor for many years until his onscreen debut in 1950 in No Way Out. Poitier was mainly considered for supporting roles and earned his first nomination for supporting actor in The Defiant Ones in 1958. In 1964 he would become the first black actor to receive the golden statue for best actor in Lilies of the Field.

 

Because of his win he became a superstar and would break the black on-screen stereotype of minstrel shows past. In the role he’s most known for, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Sidney Poitier played a black man engaged to a white woman, which maybe the first film to portray interracial marriage. Poitier came under fire during this time for not being more open and political about his race.

 

Sidney Poitier would continue to pursue acting and even directing, making his directorial debut in Buck and the Preacher in 1972. Amongst the other films Poitier has directed include Ghost Dad and Stir Crazy, starring Richard Pryor. The last film Sidney Poitier has starred in was The Jackal in 1997.

Jonathan Silva is a graduate and current student at Full Sail University going for his Master's Degree in Journalism. When he isn't writing for film blogs like Get The Big Picture or listening to music, he's either watching movies or playing video games. His love for all things entertainment shine through in his writing.